Singleness Myth #1: Marriage = Completion
It doesn’t take a sociological sleuth to recognize that our society is more than a little confused about sex and relationships. But two of the biggest—and most destructive—relationship myths in our society are actually just as prevalent in the church. In fact, at times they are more prevalent in the church. Not only are these two myths simply not true; they are also incredibly destructive.
We’ll start by taking a look at Myth 1. But be sure to check out Myth 2 (The “Right Person” Myth) as well.
Myth 1: Marriage = Completion
The idea here is a simple one: being married is superior to be single. This myth assumes that marriage and the traditional family is the ultimate state of mankind. The flip-side of this is that if you miss out on marriage, you miss out on the essence of a full life. Singleness is inferior and incomplete.
In all of our efforts to promote healthy marriages (a good thing!), the church has done a lot of damage by propagating this myth. You can hear it in the way we “console” singles. “Oh, don’t worry, you’ll get married someday.” A friend of mine got so tired of hearing old ladies at weddings tell him, “Don’t worry, honey. You’re next,” that he started saying it back to them…at funerals. “Don’t worry…you’re next.” Perhaps a bit blunt, but his point is well taken. It’s exhausting to constantly receive pity for being single.
I’m afraid we too often miss what Jesus had to say about family and singleness. He would be the first to spot this myth for a lie. After all, he said that his true “mother and brothers” weren’t those related to him by blood, but those who do the will of God (Mark 3:31–35). In other words, he didn’t come to create happy little American families, but to build a greater family in the church. The nuclear family is not the center of God’s kingdom.
Does that sound radical to you? It is. It was so radical in the first century that people thought the church was “anti-family.” Here was a group of people teaching that marriage wasn’t eternal, that it wasn’t the key to the good life. They taught that whatever earthly relationships we had—mothers and brothers and wives and husbands—are only temporary. As John Piper put it,
Jesus was here calling out a new family where single people in Christ (or people not in traditional families) are full-fledged family members on a par with all others, bearing fruit for God and becoming mothers and fathers of the eternal kind. Marriage is temporary; and it will finally give way to the relationship to which it was pointing all along: Christ and the church—the way a picture is no longer needed when you see face to face.
Both marriage and singleness are gifts from God, light and momentary when seen from eternity. That means God wants to use both situations to advance his kingdom. It also means that neither is possible without the help of his Spirit.
Many single people I know aren’t happy with being single. They don’t feel like the have the “gift” of singleness, because they don’t want to be alone or because they want kids. But in the kingdom, you don’t need marriage to have those things. In the kingdom of God, you have a new family, because you aren’t supposed to be alone. It’s just that marriage isn’t the only way to be “not alone.” And in the kingdom of God, you have spiritual offspring, which—according to Jesus—are so much more important than biological ones.
Single or married, you can be happy and fulfilled, because fulfillment doesn’t come from a marital status. It comes from walking with the God who gifts and empowers you. But this also means that we, as a church, must really think of ourselves as a family. It means that single people and married people look at each other as family, deeply involved in each others’ lives. Marriage doesn’t complete us, but family—our heavenly family—does.
For more, be sure to listen to the entire message here.